Don’t seek to shut down debate and discussion. This means not seeking to prevent individuals from publishing their views or holding a job where they publish those views. It also means working to create a safe space for the open exchange of ideas, especially when there are social media or other shout down campaigns under way. …
How delightfully ironic. Not many years ago, when I published a piece on Wattsupwiththat.com critical of Pielke Jr’s ‘iron law’ hypothesis that is exactly what he did: ‘prevent individuals from publishing their views’. The article disappeared overnight: Pielke Jr had prevailed upon Anthony Watts to do the dirty deed.
Speaking of intolerance, everyone’s favourite troll ‘ATTP’ posted yet another diffusely worded tract about ‘the avoidance of the intellectual’. ATTP bemoans how ‘people who spend their lives trying to understand the world’ (i.e., academics like him) are ‘discouraged’ from taking a stand, and are ‘content to stay in their own little bubble, rather than engaging with the broader community.’
I don’t know about you but I can say with confidence ATTP’s online behaviour is exactly that of someone trying hard to ‘stay in his own little bubble, rather than engaging with the broader community’. In fact whenever the ‘broader community’ attempts contact, ATTP shrinks away into the bubble banishing the ‘contactees’. In the latest episode, moderator RachelM banned longtime climate commentator Tom Fuller without asking him first: Fuller was the kind of guy ATTP would have banned anyway.
There are other peculiarities here. In an interesting article on censorship on university campuses Nick Cohen points out how universities no longer support and nurture freedom of expression, in a form they traditionally did.
Michael Harris, a colleague on the Guardian, made the brilliant point to me afterwards that tuition fees had made students consumers. They no more felt they had a duty to uphold freedom of speech when they disapproved of a speaker, than shoppers thought they had a duty to visit M&S …
If tuition fees spurred by the corporatization of universities had made students into consumers, would lecturers and teachers who swim and survive in the environment be far behind? ATTP himself confirms the impression. He points out:
Universities are also now run more as a business than as some institution of learning that provides a service to the broader public …
Consumer students would think like corporate entities and open discussion is not a priority. Cohen says (emphasis mine):
I left thinking how too many left-wing academics were creating the ideal authoritarian types for the corporations, political parties and police forces of tomorrow. The abiding lesson of their supposedly liberal education was that they were entitled to suppress argument.
This precisely describes ATTP’s inclination and a broader tendency among academics. Despite the pious words, ATTP’s blog behavior is fundamentally corporate, and not ‘university-like’, and stems from his academic background.
In defending Lomborg, Pielke Jr says he welcomes a ‘discussion about academic intolerance’. But academic freedom and tolerance are no special breed. You either fight for it for all individuals, including those critical of your ideas, or you don’t. Academics make poor defenders of academic freedom. Despite what they tell you, that’s not what they want.